SEPANG, May 15 — Customs officers at the KL International Airport have foiled an attempt to smuggle into the country 330 endangered tortoises valued at about RM1.2 million.
The tortoises, five of the Ploughshare species endemic to Madagascar and 325 of the Indian Star species, were found in five boxes on an Etihad Airways flight from Madagascar’s Antananarivo Airport yesterday, said KLIA Customs (Enforcement and Compliance) deputy director Abdull (rpt) Abdull Wahib Sulong.
The tortoises were found during an inspection of the boxes at the air cargo warehouse of the KLIA free trade zone at about 3pm, he said.
Abdull Wahid said the tortoises had been declared as stones in the air waybill.
He said efforts were being made to trace the importer of the tortoises which were destined for an address in Salak Tinggi, Sepang, Selangor, that was found to be fictitious.
Abdull Wahid said the case was being investigated under Section 135(1)(a) of the Customs Act 1967 on import of prohibited goods. An offender can be fined a sum of between 10 and 20 times the value of the goods or jailed for up to three years, or both.
He said it was prohibited to import tortoises under the Third Schedule of the International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008, unless a permit was obtained.
Tortoises were also prohibited from import under the Customs (Prohibition of Imports) Order 2017 unless a permit had been obtained.
Abdull Wahid said the black market price for a Ploughshare tortoise was US$4,000 (RM17,338) and an Indian Star tortoise, US$1,000 (RM4,335) .
He said it was suspected that the tortoises were meant to be sold as pets but it could not be ascertained whether the exotic animals were for the Malaysian market or on transit through the country.
The seized tortoises would be handed over to the Wildlife Protection and National Parks Department, he said. — Bernama